Nevada is the latest state to be approved for a waiver that would exempt it from meeting some of the benchmarks set out by the No Child Left Behind Act. In exchange, Nevada had to submit plans for meeting these benchmarks in the near future. Specifically, the plans outlined the path the state will take to ensure that all its students are at grade level in literacy and numeracy, and that students who graduate Nevada high schools are academically prepared to take on college-level work.
With the approval of Nevada's application for waiver, the number of states that have sought and received similar permissions has grown to 33, as well as the District of Columbia, with Washington State being given a provisional approval, good for one year, instead of the typical two. To qualify for a renewal next year, the teacher evaluation system used by the state must be modified to be more in line with the requirement that a "significant part" of the teacher's rating must be based on student achievement data.
So far, only Iowa had its application turned down — for being unwilling to alter its teacher evaluation system to conform to the same requirement.
The denial of Iowa's application was the result of a power struggle between state governor Terry Branstad, along with his appointed Director of the Department of Education Jason Glass, and state legislators. Late last year, Glass asked Iowa lawmakers to give him the power to make changes to the teacher assessment system to allow state standardized test results to play more of a role after Branstad warned that the current formula could result in a waiver denial. The State Legislature, however, rebuffed these requests.
As a result, Iowa now faces the 2014 deadline to have all its students at grade level in mathematics and reading or have some of its school staffs completely replaced along with having some schools taken over by private education contractors.
The Obama administration first announced that it would allow states to apply for NCLB waivers in 2011, and since then all but 13 states have applied. The states currently awaiting a decision on their applications include Idaho, California and Illinois. Iowa also has a waiver request outstanding after submitting an amended turnaround plan.
In announcing the latest approval, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised the waiver process for giving states the flexibility to take steps to improve academic outcomes of their students that best fits their individual circumstances.
"Nevada joins the growing number of states who can't wait any longer for education reform, and we're thrilled that more than 1 million new students will now be protected under these 34 flexibility plans," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "We still remain hopeful that Congress will come together to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, but we know states need this relief now."